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Grand America concierge among the best in world

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 19 2011 12:09 a.m. MST

Grand America hotel concierge Barb Roberts has become the first Utahn to be accepted into Les Clef d'Or International Concierge Society.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Go ahead. Try to find something (legal, of course) that Barb Roberts can't get for you.

Chances are you'll run out of ideas before you stump her.

"People say to me, 'I have a really strange question,' " Roberts said. "That's my favorite thing they say to me because I love the challenge of getting new requests every day."

As concierge at the downtown Grand America hotel, it's her job to find items, make reservations, or give ideas to hotel guests. And the requests come from royalty and celebrities.

One call for help came from the wife of a country's president (she didn't say which country), who needed to know how to rid the static cling on her evening dinner dress.

"I went to her room to help her," Roberts recalled. "We hiked up her clothes and I rubbed lotion up and down her legs because that takes care of static cling."

It was at that point her husband and his bodyguards came into the room.

"It was hilarious," said Roberts.

She also remembers the time an entertainer (whom she didn't name) stayed at the Grand America with a unique request.

"He did not want to sleep on a bed that anybody else had slept on," Roberts said. "So I had to go and buy him a box spring and a mattress just for him. That was really fun to do."

It's that kind of attitude that has return guests constantly asking for her help.

"Barbara is a light to the lobby," said Annie Fitzgerald, the director of guest experience for the Grand America hotel. "I mean, when you walk in, it's hard not to look at her and see her smiling face."

Her commitment to the hotel's guests has been noticed by her counterparts around the world.

She was recently accepted as a member of the Les Clef d'Or (pronounced lay-clay-door) International Concierge Society. The honor places Roberts among the best concierges in the world.

She's also the first concierge in Utah to ever be inducted into the society.

"It's really just a lifetime achievement award for me to be able to get this because I've been working on this for about 25 years," said Roberts.

She first noticed the telltale sign of society membership 25 years ago when she stayed at a New York City hotel, where the concierge wore a pair of gold key pins.

She asked him what they meant, and ever since, has been working to get them.

"Members of Clef d'Or have to come and watch you work," Roberts said. "They sponsor you into the society. In order to do that, we had to have people come in from out of state. The two that watched me were from California and Louisiana."

Roberts also had to take an open book test, which she did during a weeklong vacation.

"It took me 60 hours to get all my information, and it took 12 hours to type all my answers in and submit the test," she said.

"I had to do things with airlines and things with lost passports. I had to deal with quarantined dogs, different kinds of food items, wines, and how I would plan a special event on an unlimited budget or no budget."

When the letter and the gold key pins arrived, Roberts couldn't believe it.

She passed and is now among roughly 500 Americans in the exclusive club.

"It also instills the confidence in the guests that they're working with someone who is going to give them guaranteed quality service," said Roberts.

Now, Roberts has those two gold key pins to go along with the smile, and now that she's a member, she's hoping to get more concierges in Utah into Les Clef d'Or.

"There are so many wonderful concierges here in Utah," Roberts said. "They're up in Park City, Deer Valley, down south of us. I just hope I'm one of soon to be many."

e-mail: acabrero@desnews.com

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